The History and Evolution of ETA: From Its Origins to the Death of Franco

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The Burgos Trials and Public Opinion

When, in December 1970, fourteen people supposedly implicated in the Manzanas assassination went to military trial in Burgos, the prosecution requested the death penalty for six of their number. However, a massive sway of public opinion against the state (domestically and internationally) and the bad publicity that the trial had generated for the Franco regime forced the authorities to back down. The death penalties were commuted to life sentences.

ETA's Transformation and Factionalism

After 1970, ETA received many new recruits, some of former EGI members and many working-class youths from the industrial towns of the Basque Country. As a result, ETA became much more of an urban guerrilla movement and during the next four years (until the death of Franco) the group engaged the security forces.

By 1970, ETA had split into two factions:

  • ETA-V: A group committed to a Basque ethno-cultural nationalist ideology and armed insurrection following national-liberation models.
  • ETA-VI: A leftist group less interested in Basque cultural activism and more committed to ideological reflection and revolutionary socialism.

ETA-VI entered as the more powerful of the two factions but it was ETA-V which emerged as the one mobilizing larger numbers of people during the early 1970s. In 1973, ETA assassinated Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco’s right-hand man and chosen successor.

Further Splits and the Rise of KAS

In 1974, the labour front split from ETA to form the Langile Abertzale Iraultzaileen Alderdia (LAIA). ETA split into two factions:

  • ETA (M): Armed struggle as the principal vehicle of independence.
  • ETA (PM): Marxist class-struggle program.

In April 1975, the Spanish government imposed the most severe measures of martial law leading to the detention, imprisonment, and torture of thousands of Basques. That September, two Basque youths and other 4 people were executed which provoked the recalling of several European ambassadors from Madrid. As a result of the persecution, several civil and armed groups in the Basque Country created a coalition known as Koordinadora Abertzale Sozialista (KAS) as a platform for lobbying for the amnesty of all political prisoners and exiles. That same year, on November 20, Franco died and Prince Juan Carlos was crowned king. Between 1968 and 1975 ETA assassinated thirty-four people.

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